Blanding City reopens skatepark, talks fee schedule, appoints two to planning and zoning

by David Boyle
News Director
Blanding City Council members discussed the planning and zoning committee, a splash pad and re-opened the skate park at their latest meeting.
At the May 21 meeting members of the Blanding City Council held a discussion about possibly extending voting privileges to city council members who attend Planning and Zoning meetings.
The proposed change was suggested to ensure those meetings have a quorum to conduct business.
Council members weighed the benefits of having a back-up to ensure business moves forward against the possibility of disincentivizing planning and zoning committee members from showing up.
Staff also shared that previously the city had received legal advice that while it’s not against the law to have a city council member on the planning commission it was not advised.
The issue of having a city council member on planning commission was considered more of a liability in larger cities with multi-million dollar developments but still advised against in smaller towns.
Members of the council voted to table the issue. In related news, members of the council also approved the appointment of two new members to the planning board, Tyler Nielson and Regan Richmond.
City Manager Trent Herring shared endorsement of the appointments noting the professional expertise of the two men should offer a good resource to the commission, adding that Nielson works surveying for Jones and DeMille Engineering and Richmond manages local properties.
Members of the council approved the appointments and thanked the men for their willingness to serve.
Members of the Blanding city council also discussed and approved the re-opening of the city skatepark.
Herring explained the park had been experiencing issues for over two months including trash and beer cans in the park, graffiti, fights and vulgar language from a mix of different groups that use the park.
With no one person to blame the city decided to shut down the park for a few weeks, at the meeting council and staff agreed it was time to re-open the park.
Herring shared he’s been working with the city police on the issue and reports they want to increase positive interactions with skate park users, but if issues continue to arise the approach could include banning individuals and charging them with trespassing if continued misuse of the park occurs.
To also aid with enforcement the city is working to price out and install cameras at the park in order to identify repeat offenders at the park. 
Members of the Blanding city council also held a discussion regarding a potential splash pad in the city.
San Juan County Commissioner Sylvia Stubbs appeared before the council to discuss the possibility of a splash pad in the city.
Stubbs explained that Energy Fuel’s funded  San Juan County Clean Energy Foundation was considering using some of its grant funding to create a splash pad in the county.
Stubbs outlined the benefits of the splash pad including its draw to tourists and its ability to be enjoyed by young children and be accessible to those with disabilities.
Stubbs shared the grant was still in process, with about $120,000 from the grant and an additional $50,000 needed, which Stubbs said could possibly be fundraised. 
Members of the council discussed the possible ongoing costs to the city weighed against the benefits of the project including positive impacts and draws for visitors.
Council member Charlie Taylor had two questions, one wanting to know the real operating costs of a splash pad for the city, and would the San Juan County Commission be interested in helping with operations and maintenance. 
Members of the council agreed that conversations with Jones and DeMille and other similar sized communities in Utah with splash pads about the cost of maintenance would be important for continued discussion on the topic.
Blanding city council members also discussed an update to the Blanding City fee schedule. 
As part of that schedule council discussed a grid access fee policy that would require property owners to pay the grid access fee.
Having renters pay grid access fees previously has resulted in sometimes months of the fee not being paid before the city discovers the tenant has left and results in having to go to collections.
Having property owners responsible for the fee means they’ll be able to pass those costs on to tenants, and could also increase motivation to avoid empty homes while the county and area is experiencing a housing shortage.
Staff also discussed possibly lowering the rate the city pays users who generate solar power.
While the city pays 5.7 cents per kilowatt, Herring noted that there’s not a way for the city to measure how much is being used. It was also noted that four of 12 months the city paid local users more than what they paid Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) for solar power, although the annual cost per kilowatt from UAMPS was 6.3 cents.
Herring recommended paying residents 4 cents per kilowatt hour based on what other municipalities charge.
Fee schedule discussions also related to trash pick-up, while the county landfill is increasing rates, the dissolving of the transfer station has freed up funds to soften the blow for residents, however residents can expect to see an increase in trash pickup from $23.75 a month to $25 a month, while houses with additional cans will see a flat additional fee of $15 a can.
Council also gave informal approval of the city renting the old transfer station location for Emery Telcom to store equipment at a cost of $500 a month.
Blanding City council also approved a sale of excess water to irrigators at a rate of $50 per acre foot not to exceed 200 acre-feet in the current water year.
Council also held a discussion reviewing possible capital projects for the upcoming fiscal year.

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